Barcelona tech pilot demonstrates a revolution in city planning

If you’ve ever played a video game where you manage a virtual city, you understand how real-time insight into services like transportation is essential. For city planners in the real world, the technologies to gain such “big picture” insights simply haven’t been available in the past. But now that big data business intelligence (BI) solutions are a reality, cities like Barcelona are assembling the technology to better meet the needs of their citizens.

To test the feasibility of a big data BI solution, Barcelona has created a pilot project that runs on a hybrid cloud based on Windows Azure, Windows Azure HDInsight Service and Microsoft SQL Server 2012. With it, planners can view in real-time BI that combines petabytes of existing data in the city’s systems along with new, unstructured public data sources such as Twitter, app log files and GPS signals from cellphone providers. The BI is served up via mobile apps, dashboards, custom reports and data services.

As noted in a SQL Server Blog post on Tuesday, the variety of technology choices in the Microsoft platform simplified development for the Barcelona team. For example, engineers met the diverse needs of users and devices using HDInsight and built-in tools in SQL Server, Microsoft Office and Visual Studio. Engineers were also able to manage the project’s varied data and cost requirements with Apache Hadoop and Azure’s other storage options, which you can read about here.

The pilot demonstrates a win-win solution for all concerned, the blog post points out. City employees are more productive because they now quickly see how services are working via “big picture” views that include social media feedback. Citizens enjoy a better quality of life because services like emergency response, transportation, schools and even festivals are customized to meet real needs. And local businesses get a boost by being able to spot investment opportunities in specific neighborhoods.

Learn more about Barcelona’s pilot solution by visiting the video case study.

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Steve Clarke
Microsoft News Center Staff